History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

by Howard P. Willens
     
 

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On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in front of hundreds of onlookers. Everything was over in mere seconds, but the events of that day have been the subject of heated debate for five decades. The presidential commission tasked with finding the truth, headed by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren, published its findings the following

Overview


On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in front of hundreds of onlookers. Everything was over in mere seconds, but the events of that day have been the subject of heated debate for five decades. The presidential commission tasked with finding the truth, headed by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren, published its findings the following year--Oswald had acted alone--but the report did little to quell conspiracy theorists. Many seized on what they saw as inconsistencies in the report and branded the whole investigation a cover-up. Warren himself calmly dismissed the criticism, assuring his fellow commission members that "history will prove us right."

Now, in this eye-opening new account of the Commission and its findings, Howard P. Willens sets out to prove that Warren's advice was prescient. Willens, one of the few surviving staff members of the Warren Commission, supervised the investigation from the very beginning and has waited until now to silence the critics and well-intentioned armchair detectives.  Drawn from Willens' own journals and extensive notes on the investigation--which have never before been published--History Will Prove Us Right tells the true and complete story, perhaps for the first time, of every aspect of the investigation into one of the century's most harrowing events from a uniquely first-person perspective.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
As a member of the Warren Commission’s supervisory staff, Willens had intimate knowledge of the commission’s work investigating the assassination of J.F.K. Here, he revisits the topic, from L.B.J.’s creation of the commission through the many twists and turns the investigation encountered, as well as the tumultuous reception the commission’s report received upon its release. Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed (Willens believes Oswald acted alone), but his descriptions of behind-the-scenes machinations are both illuminating and disheartening as he recounts the many roadblocks that hampered the case. Of note are former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s continuous obfuscations (up to and including the bureau’s contact with Oswald prior to 1963), the evolution of the single-bullet theory, and Oswald’s attempt to kill a well-known Dallas politician in April of 1963—which eerily mirrored his assassination of President Kennedy. Willens covers all his bases, including Oswald’s work as an FBI informant, his time spent in Cuba, and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the commission report. Readers with only a passing knowledge of the Warren Commission or its report will get the most out of the book; those more familiar with the subject who are hoping for new threads to pursue will likely end up frustrated. (Nov.)
Library Journal
09/15/2013
Fifty years on, our efforts to come to grips with Kennedy's murder continue. Often at the center of the conversation—or shouting match—is the 1964 report of the commission, appointed by President Johnson and chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. The commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin and that there was no credible evidence pointing to any conspiracy. The report was received with criticism, skepticism, and, in some quarters, outright dismissal. There had to be a conspiracy, some critics contended: a loner like Oswald could not have brought down the leader of the free world. Willens, then an attorney in the criminal division of the justice department, and now the only surviving member of the commission's supervisory staff, contends that the commission got it right. His book, based on a personal journal he kept during his work then and on correspondence files he maintained, focuses in minute detail on how the commission was formed, went about its work, sought the truth, and came to its conclusions. Willens takes readers step by step through the investigation. While he does not assert the work of the Warren Commission as infallible, he does argue assiduously that had a conspiracy existed, the commission would have found it and that proof of such a conspiracy would have surfaced by now. VERDICT This work likely will not change the mind of any hard-core conspiracy believer; however, Willens's account deserves close and careful scrutiny by anyone interested in the Kennedy assassination.—Stephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-01
A magisterial assessment of how the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy stands up after the passage of 50 years. In 1963, Willens, now a lawyer in private practice, was appointed to the commission. Here, the author uses his journal and notes from the commission's nine months of work as an unmatched framework for telling the story of JFK's assassination and the subsequent investigation. During the five decades since the event, no firsthand evidence has been brought forward to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the assassin, nor that other shots were implicated in the crime. Therefore, none of the many conspiracy theories hold up. Evidence withheld by Richard Helms, director of the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover, chief of the FBI, does not change this foundation in fact. Willens outlines the procedures adopted by the commission and how the staff was deployed. In order to establish how well the commission's work has stood the test of time, he reassesses the evidence assembled in light of the internal discussions within the commission and its staff, as well as among commission members and other government agencies. Formed shortly after the shooting on the initiative of President Lyndon Johnson, the commission moved rapidly to establish its own area of competence against the FBI, especially in the area of the shooter and the shooting. Willens reconstructs the investigators' work and describes how the final report was assembled, one chapter at a time, in response to questioning. Despite the countless conspiracy theories, Chief Justice Earl Warren was right to trust to history for vindication. A superbly written account by someone who knows precisely what needs to be said and how to say it.
From the Publisher
"Willens, one of the commission's few living staff members, gives a behind-the-scenes take on the investigation, its personalities and methodology. One by one he discards alternatives to the lone gunman theory…Willens admits mistakes in the investigation, but says these did not affect the veracity of its ultimate conclusion. He defends chief justice Earl Warren's prediction that "history will prove that we are right". For sceptics this is the greatest conspiracy theory of all, a brazen lie to whitewash the crime and aftermath." —The Guardian

"Willens makes a strong case that he and the other lawyers worked hard to do the best job they could, despite the lack of full cooperation from the FBI and CIA, each of whom had reason to withhold evidence. Willens stands by the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter and there was no credible evidence of a conspiracy." —Publishers Weekly

"The commission got it right — Oswald was the sole assassin —and that conclusion hold up after 50 years of scrutiny." —The Washington Post

"Willens's account deserves close and careful scrutiny by anyone interested in the Kennedy assassination."—Library Journal

"This fascinating book takes us through the commission’s lengthy investigation, detailing how the group assembled the evidence, examined various theories of the crime, and slowly whittled away the speculation to arrive at what they believed to be the truth. Many will still disagree with the Warren Commission’s conclusion, but this book serves a valuable function by laying out how it did its work." —Booklist

“With his precise and very discerning pen, Howard P. Willens has written with unimpeachable authority what actually happened, making his book an historically important one. I can't imagine any future writer on the Warren Commission doing so without having History Will Prove Us Right at their side. Highly recommended." —Vincent Bugliosi, bestselling author of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Helter Skelter

"A magisterial assessment of how the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy stands up after the passage of fifty years. A superbly written account by someone who knows precisely what needs to be said and how to say it." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Of all the new books inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, the most valuable contribution to the historical record may well be Howard P. Willens’s meticulous and exhaustive narrative of the inner workings of the Warren Commission and the vast evidentiary support for its much-maligned conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald in all probability acted alone. Willens reviews and refutes the still-swirling conspiracy theories while painting a compelling portrait of the truth-seeking zeal of the seven-member commission's talented, twenty-three-person staff and of its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren. The book's contents justify its title, derived from a 1965 prediction by Earl Warren: History Will Prove Us Right.” —Stuart Taylor, Jr., Contributing Editor for the National Journal and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468307559
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
10/31/2013
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.36(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"A magisterial assessment of how the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy stands up after the passage of fifty years. A superbly written account by someone who knows precisely what needs to be said and how to say it." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Meet the Author


Howard P. Willens is the only surviving member of the three-person supervisory staff of the Warren Commission. After the commission's report was published, he left the Department of Justice and in 1965 served as the Executive Director of the President's commission on Crime in the District of Columbia. In 1967, he joined a private law firm, where he has worked for over forty years. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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